So Where Does It Go When I'm Gone?
We've lost several long-time aerospace photographers and image collectors lately, the most recent of whom was Dave Menard. All of this unfortunate but inevitable passing has raised a question regarding the disposition of our collections when we shuffle off this mortal coil (hyperbole, that, but appropriate nonetheless). A number of nationally and internationally-known collectors are affiliated with this project, and the comments and opinions have been flying regarding Dave's collection, our own personal collections, and the ultimate disposition of collections in general, which in turn has resulted in a personal determination. Let's think about this for a minute, because lack of preparation can cause Truly Bad Things to happen to the best of private collections and the subsequent loss of priceless aviation history.
First, let's consider some of the alternatives and their probable ramifications:
You can do nothing at all, and let nature take its course. If you're lucky, your spouse, parents, children, or other blood kin will do the right thing by your collection, but most likely luck won't come into it and they'll jump straight to Plan A, which is to gather up said collection and head straight for the nearest dumpster. A few survivors won't do that, either because they understand the significance of the collection or because they smell money (in which case they run for E-Bay instead of the dumpster), but mostly they will, which is a real good reason to put something in writing regarding disposition of your photography and/or library.
You can leave your stuff to a museum or educational institution. On the face of things that would be The Way to Go, since you'd be donating your assets to someone who can and will both appreciate your collection and treasure it as you would. The fly in that ointment is that a great many institutions just aren't funded to properly deal with extensive collections of photography or books; if you're lucky they'll organize them and make them available to serious researchers, but most such organizations just don't have the time or the staff any more (both of those things equate to MONEY, in case you're not being very bright today). Factor into that the methodology, personal beliefs, and outright whimsy of the staff of such organizations and your contribution becomes a crap-shoot of the highest order, and it gets even worse when we consider that directors and curators in museums and universities change jobs from time to time, just like the rest of us---the guy that just left knew what to do with that priceless photography, but the new guy doesn't, and really doesn't care either because you don't have the letters PhD after your last name. See where this is going?
There's a third alternative, and it's the one we've chosen for our own personal disposition of aviation assets when the Reaper puts in his inevitable appearance. We're going to give everything to an aviation friend, someone who supports research, shares with others, and helps people with their projects. We're going to pass the assets to someone who will use all those photos and books for their own projects, and make copies of the photography available to others for theirs. Hoarders need not apply. We think that's the right thing to do, because we want the stuff to be seen (one of the reasons we started this site in the first place) and disseminated among other aviation historians. That makes a great deal of sense to us.
Why are we telling you this? Why would anybody care? The Short Version of The Story is that even the handful of Uncle Willard's Korean War photographs are of value to the legitimate historian and need to be preserved. They're a priceless record of a time and place that won't come again, and once they're gone they're gone. What you do with your own personal archives is your choice and nobody else's, but we think we're on the right track here.
As always, that's our story and we're sticking with it.
The Big One was over and Johnny had come home to peace and the beginnings of prosperity, but for some of the warriors of that era change came hard. Different people handled things different ways, but for a handful of former military aviators the path was clear: Air racing was the way to go, using modified fighters and attack aircraft surplussed out by the end of hostilities. One of the more colorful of those ex-military air racers is the subject of today's modeling section, thanks to the kindness of reader Pat Donahue.
Few people think of the Bell P-39 Airacobra as a high-performance aircraft, but even in stock form it was fast on the deck and a far more capable fighter than has generally been thought. When stripped of all its military gear and suitably modified, the aircraft became a rocket ship. The subject of this photo essay is "Cobra II", a hot-rodded P-39Q-10-BE flown by Bell test pilot Alvin "Tex" Johnston during the 1946 National Air Races.
The real "Cobra II" was capable of producing some 2,000 hp at sea level, with an achievable top speed of 400+ mph. Rate of climb was an astounding 6,000 feet per minute; in the 1946 race Johnson had launched and had gear in wells while most of the field was still on the ground. The bird was a lightweight, stripped down to 5,578 pounds dry---with the addition of a 240 US gallon fuel load gross weight was only 7,886 pounds. The airplane looked pretty ratty at the end of the race; a large percentage of the nose scalloping had worn off during the course of the competition, but the yellow and black "Cobra II" was arguably among the prettiest aircraft to ever compete for the Thompson Trophy.
Thanks to Pat Donahue for these remarkable photographs and an outstanding model!
Just in Case You Build One for Yourself
Our friends at Eduard recently issued another of their 1/48th scale Special Editions, this time covering the Lockheed P-38 in the pacific and called, appropriately enough, Pacific Lightnings (EU1175). The basic kit is Academy's P-38J/L, suitably accompanied with a selection of photo-etch and Eduard's own "Brassin'" resin accessories. The star of the show, however, is the decal sheet, which contains exceptionally well-done markings for 5 different aircraft. Thanks to Bobby Rocker we just happened to have a photograph of one of those airplanes and thought today would be a good time to share it with you.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
The Fairchild AT-21 was designed and built as a dedicated bomber trainer for the Army Air Forces during the Second World War. Some airplanes just come across as doomed from the start and, even though some 106 examples of the type were manufactured, it was a flop as a bomber trainer and, quite frankly, a poor airplane to boot. Time and good sense eventually passed it by, and second-hand bombers eventually fulfilled the roll originally conceived for the AT-21. It was for the best...
How About a Knife Fight, Ya'll?
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk series won its spurs as an attack bomber par excellance, after which it spent a fair amount of time flying as an adversary aircraft in the Navy's various ACM programs (its overall performance was similar to that of the MiG-17). Back in those faraway days when we actually went to airshows we always tried to get there the day before, so we could catch everybody arriving. That's where we found and photographed this particular "Tinker Toy".
Under The Radar
The Relief Tube
Last issue we ran some photos of P-39Qs from the 82nd TRS and commented that we couldn't quite make out the nose art on one of them. Several of our readers responded with the name we couldn't figure out, which we're going to share with you today.
First, from long-time friend Jean Barbaud: The name of the P-39Q 42-19883 picture seems to be : "Julia 2nd".
Then, just a few short days later we received not only confirmation of the name but a shot of the right side of the aircraft from Johnny Watson:
And finally, from Alan Alexander:
I hope this note finds you in good health and getting settled in from your recent change in residence. I'm sure that, by now, you've already been contacted several times about the name on 82nd TRS P-39Q 42-19883; but just in case you haven't, a peek over the top of my glasses seems to indicate that the name on her nose is "Julia 2nd." While I've got you on the line, thank-you for the great blog and to you and the others whose photographs have been posted on Replica in Scale, for sharing your treasures with the rest of us. I'm glad to see that RIS carries on the print tradition of crediting photo sources, which seems increasingly to be getting lost on the internet. Keep up the good work!
Thanks to all of you for the identification of "Julia 2nd", and for your kind comments!
We ran some photos of a few pranged aircraft a while back, leading Gerald Asher to provide this identification to one of them:
www.aviationarchaeology.com. I think a safe bet for an ID on the bird in question may be P-38G serial 42-13400 of the 54th FS, making a crash-belly landing near Temneck Bay on New Year's Day 1945. I don't know if the driver actually "walked" away, but it appears Robert L. Nesmith survived the adventure. Gerald Rocker Collection
One of the neat things about this site, as we're certain you've already noticed, are the people we get to meet. Geoffrey Hays had recently published a history on the B-50 and came across our modest effort in that direction a few issues back, where we'd bemoaned the fact that there was an airplane there, hiding in the background of a photo, that featured nose art we just couldn't read. We asked for help and Geoff came to the rescue for us:
Many thanks for your help with that one, Geoff!
Finally, here's a comment on a comment, as it were. A long, long time ago (a year or two, anyway) we ran a color shot of a Supermarine Seafire from Bobby Rocker's collection with an annotation that it was a Seafire Mk XV. While such an aircraft did exist, it's highly doubtful/pretty danged impossible that the type ever landed in the Philippines during the course of the Second World War; we messed up the caption! A couple of weeks ago one of the guys over at Hyperscale ran the photo (with provenance, for which many thanks for doing the Right Thing!), unfortunately citing our misidentification of the type and calling the airplane a Mk XV. He immediately received several responses to his post properly identifying the bird in question as a Seafire Mk III. We very much appreciate the mention in that particular publication as well as the proper identification of the airplane in that photo, and would like to encourage folks with corrections or comments to get in touch with us directly when they discover those inevitable errors; we pride ourselves on fixing such things but have a tough time doing that when we aren't aware of the mistake!
We've got another couple of corrections we could run today but we're saving them for next time. Until then, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again real soon.